That’s the thought that rolls on through my brain this morning like a steam engine, black, sooty and old. Usually it comes when I am tired or weak, before sleep or as I wake: Is it possible to go back? The answer comes quickly: No. No, I can’t.
For centuries people have told stories that at their core are about returning to What Was Once. Probably before stories of Hera renewing her virginity, time travel stories have intrigued us. The desire to go back and fix our mistakes or to relive what we remember as “wonderful” is not uncommon. The Time Machine, Groundhog day, The Navigator; A Medieval Odyssey, Back to the Future, 12 Monkeys, A Christmas Carol — the list of time travel tales is endless. All are stories searching for that one moment the fatal flaw was committed, with the hope it can be changed, avoided or relived in the future.
But what about the moments when we sense being on the cusp of change and “know” that our one act, one willful choice, will change it all? Warnings pop off in the head. Quick visions see beyond the now and we choose, sometimes within seconds. Wrong or right, we choose.
It makes me think of Judas. Poor guy had no choice, or did he? He was driven to his infamous, predestined decision. After the kiss, did he know the regret instantly? Was there another choice he could have made to redeem himself? I wonder how many times he wished to turn back time. When he let the rope snap — did he wish then that he could take steps back?
Maybe it’s more like an accident and not a choice, say, when you cut your finger, crash your car, or when your foot slips and you see yourself fall down the stairs as though watching, while at the same time enduring the pain of it. And the strange part is — it’s like you saw it coming, but you did it anyway. It’s at that moment you become so aware of the seconds before that thought you had just as you did the wrong thing. Too late. And you KNEW, but despite the warning in your head…
You did it anyway.
The finger is cut, the blood flows and as the search for the bandage ensues, you curse at yourself for being an idiot. You knew it was going to be this way and your mind trips backwards thinking about that moment when it you could have avoided it. Damn it.
I have countless moments when I could have chosen differently, but didn’t.
I could have said, “Yes.” I could have brought the cat inside. I could have gone to the doctor. I could have saved the money. I could have gotten up earlier. I could have drank tea instead of wine. I could have turned off Facebook. I could have stayed home. I could have bought the ticket. I could have accepted that scholarship. I could have stayed in college (the first time). I could have studied my ass off. I could have exercised. I could have eaten right. I could have stayed out of that bar. I could have kept my temper. I could have worked harder. I could have stayed in Hollywood. I could have left the relationship. I could have organized my time. I could have said, “no.” I could have not sent that email. I could have kept my mouth shut. I could have yelled for help. I could have told the boy, “No.” And the other boy, “no.” I could have been brave. I could have been smart.
But I wasn’t and I didn’t.
Though something in my mind told me, warned me, yelled at me in a whisper: “You are really going to regret this…. just sayin’…” I heard pain was coming, but… I saw in a flash of clarity what might happen and — well — you know. You’ve been there. We’ve all done it. Not that there is any comfort knowing that.
Then I wonder, and maybe you do, too — Did I want it to happen? Faced with the moment of no return — did I choose to take that step so that I could reach something beyond what I couldn’t yet see, beyond my visions, but felt was there?
I feel it. It’s as real as this floor under my feet, more relative than this chair under my ass. Do I choose my mistakes in an attempt to teeter forward with the hope I’ll catch “it” (whatever comes next) like a cold, a pop-fly, or a trapeze bar? Sometimes, it’s as if I can feel (whatever it is) swinging toward me and yet untrained as a circus acrobat, all I can do stumble and hope that if I fall just right, I might catch hold, grab that bar and fly! But if I fall — damn it, I fall.
There might be a net, but I never know. I think I knit the net as I go along. That part is all in slow motion. Regardless, the knitting of a false sense of safety is not the same idea as time travel. I still can’t go back. There is no return.
Even if 95% of me wanted to stay on the side of time I know — where it seems safe, where I have adapted — I can’t change that moment I made up my mind. Within a millisecond, after years of trying to not let myself face my own thoughts, I made that choice.
Fate. Damned fate.
Or Faith? Blessed faith? Either way — neither changes the truth.
Falling now …